(I. A. Krylov, “Sochinitel’ i razbojnik”)
In the infernal realm, where Pluto holds his sway
Two men appeared upon the self-same day.
The one of them – a common thief
Who finally had come to grief,
Was tried and hanged for robbery;
The other’s prospect seemed much brighter,
For he had been a famous writer
Whose writing had been somewhat ‘free’:
He praised impiety and he made it look nice;
Extolled depravity, as if it were no vice;
And this is ow he used his gift.
Down there the justice’s strict and swift,
With no delays or appellations.
The sentence passed, with not more preparations,
Two cauldrons having been brought in,
The culprits were confined within,
Each one to answer for his sin.
Under the thief they put some wood and kindling:
The fire was terrible, but gradually dwindling,
But underneath the man of fame
They kindled such a tiny flame
That he was even thinking: “Well,
It’s not too bad, if this is hell!”
Then, after many years, the fire
Under the robber did expire,
The ashes turning almost cold;
But on the other hand, the pyre
Had been increasing manifold
Under the famous man of letters.
He could no longer bear his fetters,
But, being now in full despair
And seeing no respite or rest
Began to cry and to protest,
These words escaping from his breast:
“Infernal gods! This is unfair!
I am a famous man and I was never meant
To undergo such torture and torment!
And even if I, now and then,
Committed sins with my free pen,
My little sins were never such
As to be punished very much.
It’s absolutely past belief
That I should be more sinful than that thief!”
As he said this there instantly appeared
One of infernal goddesses: so weird,
And terrible, and fearsome to behold,
That, even in the fire, his blood was turning cold.
“You wretched man, she said, how do you dare
Your sins with those of yonder thief compare?
He did some men of goods and life deprive;
He hurt them only while he was alive.
But you! Your bones are rotten long ago,
The sun, however, does not go
Down, without witnessing some crime
Caused by yourself, and all the time
They are increasing, and the longer,
The poison of your books is getting only stronger
Behold your evil deeds! All those
Misfortunes are your work, you are their cause! –
(And saying this the goddess had unfurled
Before his eyes a picture of the world) –
Look at young men, disgrace to all their brothers,
Cause of despair to fathers and to mothers!
By whom, if not by you, were poisoned they?
Who else has ridiculed, as childish play,
Both marriage, authority and all established rule,
Attributed to them all human tribulations
And tried to undermine society’s foundations?
A country, poisoned by your books, is full,
From border to border,
Of thievery and of disorder,
Where mutinies and murders never stop –
You are the cause of every drop
Of tears and blood in it! And yet,
How many evils will your books beget
In times to come! You have been very clever;
And now, endure this punishment forever!”
The goddess said, and as she did,
She tightly slammed on him the lid.+++
When this was written, there was little doubt
As to the writer whom it was about,
He being certainly Voltaire.
Not long ago such writers were still rare;
But then they started to proliferate,
And at a so enormous rate,
Not in just one, but almost every nation,
That there appears to be some little consolation
To him, for whom these flames have been first lit:
For now the ‘honours’ must be split.